Bakewell farm philosopher turns guiding star

A retired Bakewell farmer has become a social media phenomenon at the age of 83 thanks to a series of videos focused on meditation and spiritual understanding.

Thursday, 1st April 2021, 5:07 pm
Updated Saturday, 3rd April 2021, 10:44 am
John Butler says: "A good farmer should leave the land better than he found it."

The latest chapter in the extraordinary life story of Granby Road resident John Butler has seen him clock up more than 116,000 subscribers and 12million views on YouTube, and a new Spotify series produced by neighbour Phil Shankland.

He said: “When all this started, I didn’t know what YouTube was. I hardly understood the internet. I don’t mind doing it but I wouldn’t mind if it stopped.

“People write to say they are getting something from it and, of course, that gives me pleasure, but all I’m doing is speaking from experience.”

John’s practice of meditation follows no particular religious teaching, but leads from “silence and stillness to undivided spirit.”

It stems back to a moment of clarity on a mountain in Peru, where he worked on farming development in his 20s.

John said: “The words, ‘To make whole, be whole' came to my mind. I saw myself as an immature young man trying to teach older and wiser people how to live. I realised before helping others I first had to work on myself. I’d recently read about meditation, and thought it might help.”

He added: “I’ve always loved the wide open spaces – the oceans and mountains of this world – but the first time I meditated was actually in a waiting room at St Pancras station after I had gone to London to learn.

“It all opened up and I realised I no longer had to travel the world to find the freedom I looked for. It was all inside.”

John eventually began to teach others and write books. In between, he has been the subject of two BBC documentary films on his pioneering approach to organic farming and spent time living in Russia, Africa and the USA.

At the age of 79, a recommendation from one of his students saw publicity-shy John reluctantly agree to appear on YouTube channel Conscious TV, where he made an instant impact on viewers.

By coincidence, around that time Phil found one of John’s books in a second-hand shop and visited him in Bakewell They eventually decided to create their channel, Spiritual Unfoldment.

Watch John at work via, or find his audio recordings at